There aren’t many solicitors or conveyancers who would disagree with the assertion that the last couple of years have been extremely difficult for the profession. As well as the slow economy, the market has become extremely competitive and firms must change old established ways and think outside of the box if they wish to attract new business.
Traditionally, the legal profession has had a reputation for being personality driven and has not always has the greatest PR. Now it finds itself having to compete in a marketplace driven by customer demand and where innovation and technology move at such a pace that firms have to run just to keep up. 2010 may be the year when the profession seizes back the initiative and begins to play the market at its own game. So to keep up, firms are turning proactive in their client attraction and retention methods.
Firms are setting up clinics in village halls, or dropping flyers through the mail. We have already noted that Walker Smith Way in Chester are actively marketing using these techniques and the numbers of applications they are submitting to Land Registry are increasing. Other firms like Parkinson Wright in Staffordshire are offering client benefit cards, and Watsom Esam are offering a discount on conveyancing service prices over summer.
An easier way of raising a firm’s profile is now being offered by SolicitorLinks.com. A large proportion of potential customers’ first port of call when looking for a lawyer is an internet search. The site offers firms the chance to appear near the top of a search results list as it has a recognisable site, which will lead customers to the individually listed firms.. It is an easy-to-use and straightforward search site, offering contact details and location of firms who sign up.
With the launch of wigster.com later this year, lawyers join the beauty parade at which insurers have long been successful, and line up to flog their services on a comparethemarket style web price comparison site. Wigster.com’s imaginative founder, Nick Miller, states that he is looking to build a brand that customers can remember as clearly as comparethemarket or gocompare, both popular insurance comparison websites. Prices for a broad range of legal services will be available to the customer at the touch of a button, along with other key information including service differentiators, location/distance details and performance star ratings.
Mr Miller says: “What sets this site apart from what has gone before is that we have approached this very much from the consumer’s perspective. Thanks to the rapidly maturing insurance comparison website market, consumers now have certain expectations of comparison websites — and Wigster is the first in the legal space to bring together all the information that allows for immediate and comprehensive evaluation on the competing offerings.” He encourages lawyers to think laterally in their marketing technique and to see the site as another shop window in which to display their wares.
Another original thinker is Craig Holt founder of franchise model QualitySolicitors (QS). QS is a limited company with members made up of law firms who have signed up to the QS terms of business. It burst onto the market with a fanfare on 24th August this year with an audacious prime time advert in the middle of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? the popular ITV1 quiz show. According to Neil Rose, editor at Legal Futures, it was impressive; “[not] because it simply looked good. While I’m sure Lockings, Howlett Clarke and Burroughs Day were thrilled to see their names picked out for the advert, what I really liked was the message that firms only become (and presumably stay) QS members if they get the thumbs-up from their clients — ‘Chosen by you’ is the tagline.” QS’s unique selling point is that the customer is in charge of the relationship — through its franchisees it guarantees quality and a consumer friendly ethos. This is a sharp move away from how the profession is traditionally perceived. QS sees that for many people hiring a lawyer is an unwanted necessity and a relationship which many will be wary of entering into, hitherto dogged by hidden costs, archaic language and old men in funny wigs.
QS experienced an “unbelievable spike” in web traffic and calls following its primetime television advert last week, even though it was aimed more at brand awareness than direct response, founder Craig Holt has reported.
Mr Holt argued that “brands exist and succeed anywhere we need to make a choice — of which in the legal market there is too much choice between local law firms who invariably provide little means to differentiate themselves. Likewise the concept that the service has to be the ‘same’ for a brand to succeed is a myth. The commonality can be limited to providing an excellent service — that doesn’t mean it has to be identikit. Even within a law firm, the service is very different from lawyer to lawyer as so much of legal services is personality driven. What we can have as a national brand are certain core values, client promises and innovations.” These innovative marketing strategies are a great leap forward for the profession, and markedly different than anything which has come before. Firms who have not considered being listed on SolicitorLinks or wigster, or of appealing to clients in a more consumer friendly way may risk being left behind, and in this market, no-one can afford for that to happen.